Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Book review”

Book review: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, #1)I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a really hard book to review. For starters, I saw the movie first, which starred Timothy “Raylan” Olyphant. I mean, sure, he didn’t have the hat, and he barely shot anyone, and it was only a supporting role, but just his mere presence made the film watchable. Then there is the infamous history of the authors of the book, which is an interesting tale of an author who prefers to fictionalise his non-fiction works, who recruited some starry eyed grad students to write a bunch of novels for him, and paid them in lumps of coal. Then there is the fact that this book reads like it was written by someone who was paid in valueless commodities.

This begs the question: why did you even bother reading it? I did mention Raylan Givens was in the movie, right?

I think it is fair to say that author James Frey is not highly regarded for his ethics in the publishing or business world. This is a key reason to downgrade any rating this book receives. That may seem harsh – judge the writing, not the author – but it is hard to enjoy something you know was produced via exploitation (hi to everyone reading this review on an iPad or iPhone). But I still felt I had to give the book a chance.

The book itself is very similar to the movie. If you have seen the movie you know this isn’t high praise, but the movie was watchable fun. And that pretty much sums up the book as well, readable fun. The main difference is that the characters were actually portrayed far better in the movie than in the book, especially John and Sarah. In the movie Sarah had a depth of character that wasn’t really present in the book (which could just have been the writing perspective), while John in the book comes off as a whiny teenager as opposed to the more broody movie portrayal.

This should all add up to a book I wouldn’t normally bother finishing, but the story itself, the ideas presented, some of the scenes; were well done. This was enough to overcome the sections of hackneyed writing (we get it, high school is tough, blah blah), and to make you ignore the ethics of the book’s production. But even Raylan couldn’t encourage me to read more of the Lorien Legacies series of books.

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Book Review: Deadpool Killustrated by Cullen Bunn

Deadpool KillustratedDeadpool Killustrated by Cullen Bunn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve never entirely gotten onboard of Deadpool. On paper (boom tish) Deadpool should tickle all of my reading spots: humour, irreverence, action, my Ryan Reynolds man crush. But so far I’m still on the fence about being a fan. Admittedly I haven’t read Joe Kelly’s classic run, so maybe that is tainting my perspective.

So why read Deadpool Killustrated? Well, funny you should ask, voice in my head. I thought the premise and execution of Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe was an interesting story: a very meta tale. After you’ve read Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe, you’d think that the idea of one Marvel character finding a way to kill all the other Marvel characters is pretty much tapped out, but the Deadpool version took that idea so much further. Killustrated is the logical extension of that story, and hence worth a read.

I’m only giving this three stars, however, as the story felt somewhat abbreviated/abridged (much like Deadpool Kills). The story concept wasn’t fully realised, but still worth a read.

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Also, the Deadpool test footage proves they need to make a movie, with Ryan Reynolds and Tim Miller:

Book Review: All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

All You Need Is KillAll You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure that there are enough sci-fi thrillers out there. Maybe we should get James Patterson to churn out a few dozen this year, or maybe someone can point me in the direction of a few dozen authors like Hiroshi Sakurazaka.

People may be aware of All You Need Is Kill because of the film adaptation starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, retitled Edge of Tomorrow because ‘kill’ had such negative connotations. I haven’t watched the film yet, but have heard very good things, which makes sense, since this is a very good book. The premise for the book (and film) is that Earth has been invaded by terraforming robots – Mimics – who are preparing the planet for an alien race to come live here. These robots have a special trick they use to help them win battles: they can send a signal back in time to allow time loops to play out until they win. Keiji Kiriya is a new recruit, but in his first battle he gets caught in the loop, and he is able to alter the future by learning from his mistakes.

Obviously this sounds a lot like the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, just with less Bill Murray and more giant robots trying to destroy the planet. The story never lets up, despite the fact that the two days (the day before and day of the battle) are on an endless loop until either Keiji or the Mimics succeed. And the twist ending caught me somewhat by surprise. I recommend this book to any fans of thrillers, unless you can’t stand the idea of people in robotic suits fighting alien robots for the future of the planet – which is, of course, impossible not to love.

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Book Review: Criminal by Karin Slaughter

Criminal (Will Trent, #6)Criminal by Karin Slaughter
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

If you ever want to feel better about yourself and your life, there is nothing like reading a book with characters that have a litany of personal problems and struggles. I can’t think of too many people with serial killers for dads, so that has to make your lot in life look better.

Unlike the previous Will Trent story I read from Karin Slaughter, this novel novel is split into two timelines, one in the modern day with Will, the other in the 1970s focuses on the early career of Will’s boss, Amanda Wagner. Karin handles the multiple POVs and timelines seamlessly and I really enjoyed the trials and tribulations of Amanda’s first homocide investigation, and the insights it gave into equality. It is really odd to think that only 30-40 years ago that people would have been phoning the police to report women impersonating police officers, because the idea that women could actually do the job seemed too ridiculous. Check out the interview with Karin discussing this:

It’s good to know that society has come a long way in a generation, not that you’d notice on the Youtube comments section.

Despite enjoying this novel, the characterisation, the social insights, the murder mystery, I could only give it 3.5 stars. The only reason for this was that I’ve had a very busy time of late, with many things competing for my spare time, and this book wasn’t compelling me to pick it up and keep reading. I didn’t have to force myself to read the book, by any means, more that I wasn’t drawn to it in the way I am with my favourite reads.

I’d recommend this book for people who’ve already read some of the Will Trent series, as they’ll get more out of the story than someone new to the Will’s world.

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Book Review: Secondworld by Jeremy Robinson

SecondWorldSecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s nothing quite like a fast paced thriller to keep the blood pumping. Well, except perhaps a double shot of espresso washing down a hit of speed after an eightball. I think reading might be easier on the heart, though.

Jeremy Robinson’s SecondWorld has probably one of the more suspenseful openings I’ve read in a while. His hero, Lincoln Miller, is stuck underwater with no air left, only to surface and find no air to breath thanks to some mysterious red flakes soaking up the oxygen. If the lack of air wasn’t bad enough, he’s being hunted by a shark. Like I said, suspenseful.

Of course, no air, poisonous red flakes falling from the sky, sharks, that’s just the beginning of a thriller that sees skin-heads and a Nazi plot started back at the end of the Second World War, trying to purify the world. Welcome to SecondWorld.

Jeremy handles the plotting and pacing well, reminding me a lot of James Rollins. This book is a lot of fun and is very entertaining. My problem with the novel comes from some of the details that jarred me straight out of the story. To most readers this wouldn’t be a problem, but for me it was. An example was a .38 Super revolver being referred to as a hand-cannon, something that is a stretch for a yoga master. These errors and the inclusion of an overly obvious ending – not to spoil it, but add cryogenics and Nazis together and what cliche do you get? – and I had to downgrade my score on what was an otherwise entertaining read.

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Book review: Freezing Point by Karen Dionne

Freezing PointFreezing Point by Karen Dionne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For anyone not familiar with the Killer Thrillers group, Karen is one of many great authors who are on the list with Zoe Sharp, Sean Black and Boyd Morrison (to name just 3 off of the top of my head). They have a tag-line: Great reads – guaranteed. I think it holds true.

Anyway, Freezing Point is an eco-thriller that moves along at a cracking pace. Plenty of conspiracies, corporate greed, wacky environmentalists, scientists in the frozen wilds, idealists caught in a mess, and rats that have developed a taste for humans, all competing for the most precious resource: water.

I enjoyed this novel, which I believe is the first in a series of related eco-thrillers by Karen. The only thing I disliked was the abrupt ending. I felt there was more to come, several chapters worth, but it was wrapped up with a few lines in what was essentially an epilogue. Regardless the “great reads” tag-line holds true.

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Book review: The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Heist: A Novel (O'Hare and Fox #1)The Heist: A Novel by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit, I haven’t read a Janet Evanovich book in years, despite my wife having most of them on our shelf. I haven’t read a Lee Goldberg book in a least a couple of months. So when I picked up this collaboration between two witty and highly entertaining authors I was playing “try to figure out who wrote which bits” without any success. Unlike some author collaborations, this was an actual collaboration.

I will now try to write a paragraph without using the word ‘collaboration’…… Dammit!

Lee and Janet have written a very entertaining novel and I think this will make for a cool series of adventures. The setup is the standard odd couple device we’ve seen done to death. Fortunately Lee and Janet have the charged paddles of ‘interesting take’ on the odd couple romp. I think it was the stock moments that kept this good novel from being great. Then again, they did manage to include a conman, FBI agent, thief, corrupt lawyer, embezzler, fake drug lord, and real pirates in the same heist novel. Add in ninjas for the next one and it could be perfect.

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Book review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this book for my wife when it first came on sale. When she finished reading the book she was immediately asking me when the sequel was being released – a year later, of course. So considering that this trilogy has been finished and the movie has already been released, it shows just how long my TBR list is that I’ve only gotten to this one now (even then, only as the audiobook).

There is something refreshing about a young author writing young adult novels. And it is enjoyable to have a good mix of action, introspection, character development, and social commentary. Some have criticised the five factions, that are the basis of the story’s society, as unrealistic…. Because wars over fuel would never happen in reality – the criticism levelled at Mad Max. What I’m saying is that people making this criticism have kinda missed the point being made.

Definitely worth a read, even for non-YA fans.

NB: This cool cover art was the reason I originally bought the book. I knew nothing about it, except that the cover looked cool and the blurb sounding like it would appeal to my wife. Cover art is really important (for me at least).

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Book review: The Persona Protocol by Andy McDermott

The Persona ProtocolThe Persona Protocol by Andy McDermott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Something a little bit different from Andy McDermott with Persona Protocol; different in that Nina and Eddie aren’t being shot at in this one. But there is still plenty to enjoy about this techno-spy-thriller, not starring Nina and Eddie, but instead Adam and Bianca take over the being shot at duties.

Andy again delivers his mix of breakneck pacing and humour that are the reason I enjoy his books so much. I think this departure from the Nina and Eddie series of archaeological adventures (is it still archaeology if they destroy most of the stuff they find?) is every bit as good, and I hope to see more of these departures from Andy.

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Book Review: Gotham Central Vol 1 by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka

Gotham Central, Vol. 1: In the Line of DutyGotham Central, Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With the new TV series Gotham currently being cast there has been a bit of buzz around what the storyline is going to be about. Unfortunately it is not going to be based upon this excellent series by Brubaker and Rucka (should also mention the art by Michael Lark). This would actually be a great way to do a non-Batman series, especially as it would be able to use the recent Nolan films as a lead in.

I guess people who read will be the only ones to appreciate a series focussed on Gotham city police trying to work in the shadow of Batman.

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Book review: The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

The TournamentThe Tournament by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just about everyone has already commented how this novel is a departure for Matthew Reilly. It’s still unmistakably a Matthew Reilly novel, but instead of a thriller, this is a mystery novel.

Whilst this was an enjoyable novel, I can’t rate it as highly as his others. The key to enjoying the change in Reilly’s murder mystery cum chess tournament is to remember this is a mystery and not a thriller. Seriously, some of the reviews I’ve seen sound like they were expecting Scarecrow to time travel back at any moment and start shooting mutant monkeys, and were annoyed when that didn’t happen.

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Book Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining GirlsThe Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I met Lauren two years ago now, when she was running a class on writing (d’uh). This first sentence of the review is essentially a name drop… move along, nothing to see here.

The Shining Girls is such an interesting take on crime novels, with a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey*, plot and some fascinating story telling. Lauren has an interesting setup for the serial killer and his victim protagonist, a setup that you hope has a good payoff. Well, it doesn’t have a good payoff, in the final pages it has an excellent payoff.

The version I ‘read’ was the audiobook, which is worth mentioning because there were multiple narrators to take on the various points of view used in the book. This was a great touch that I wish more audiobooks would do. For a complex novel like The Shining Girls, it is almost necessary. I can say I have stopped listening to at least two audiobooks in the past year that probably would have been improved with multiple narrators to clarify changes in points of view. Or you could just read the novel the old fashioned way, just not whilst driving, or using a table saw, as I was able to with the audio version.

* If you don’t get that reference I pity your TV viewing habits.

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Book Review: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy, #1)The Strain by Guillermo del Toro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this novel after watching the fantastic Pan’s Labyrinth. If you haven’t watched that movie, do so now. In fairness though, this novel has more in common with Del Toro’s contribution to the Blade series of movies than it does to Pan’s Labyrinth.

This is another take on the viral outbreak thriller, thankfully it doesn’t take it down the path of zombies, as most recent novels in this genre have done. Non-sparkly vampires are back!

The only disappointment for me was that this was definitely the first instalment in a trilogy and felt a little more unfinished than I’d have liked. The writing is very reminiscent of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Prendergast series. Worth a read for horror and thriller fans.

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Book review: Zero at the Bone by David Whish-Wilson

Zero at the BoneZero at the Bone by David Whish-Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know it is only early into November, but I think I’ve read the best book of the year. But don’t just take my word for it, Angela Savage thinks so too. That isn’t to say you can’t take my word for it. I’m trust-worthy. Honest.

David has set himself a huge task: setting a crime novel in the sleepy city of Perth Western Australia and making the hard-boiled-thriller work. Let’s just say that I’m glad I was too young to experience the Perth David has crafted in Zero at the Bone.

If you read Angela’s review, she has summed up the story and highlighted David’s skilled writing. I’ve previously discussed David’s previous novel, Line of Sight, as being a great novel; this one is even better.

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Book Reviews: Velocity by Steve Worland

Velocity (Judd Bell & Corey Purchase, #1)Velocity by Steve Worland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whenever there is a new thriller author on the block, especially if they are Australian, there is always someone drawing a comparison to Matthew Reilly. You can just about guarantee that this comparison will be drawn by someone who hasn’t read Matthew Reilly’s books or hasn’t read the new author’s book/s. Finally there is an author with whom this comparison is valid.

Well worth the read.

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Book Review: Arctic Floor by Mark Aitken

Arctic FloorArctic Floor by Mark Aitken
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is nothing quite like a marketing executive, especially when they work in publishing. These are the people who come up with the fantastic ideas like: dog on the cover because dogs sell books, no dogs in the book; bright and cheery cover art, book about a serial killer; quotes recommending the book by famous authors, authors that have the same publisher. In this case the marketing department came up with a brilliant idea: Matthew Reilly is an Australian author who sells a lot of books, let’s mention him on the cover, despite the fact that the two authors write in a completely different style.

I grabbed Mark’s book from my local library because I saw he had a new book out, the third in a series, and I hadn’t heard of him previously. A fellow Aussie author, with a comparison to Matthew Reilly on the cover: this should be gold. Needless to say, the marketing people drew me in with false advertising. Mark’s book is a thriller and was a decent read, but he was more Cussler or Archer than Reilly. In fact, I was more reminded of Sahara (swap baking temperatures for freezing cold) than I was of Ice Station.

False advertising aside, this is quite a decent thriller. Worth a read, if you are after a James Rollins or Clive Cussler style novel. I’d expect later books in this series will probably “grab” the reader more, so maybe check out Mark’s new one.

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Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I normally hate literary styled books. They normally take all the fun stuff out of the book and replace it with tedious exposition masquerading as deep and meaningful prose. Award winning books are usually weighed down with this superfluous fluff.

This is a harsh statement, I know. Just because a book has won a literary award that doesn’t mean it has to suck. But it all comes back to some training I had in communication sciences at university. No-one cares about the methods, or process, or how long you spent doing this, and especially not how much research you did, they only care about what’s in it for them. Boil that down to a simple: readers are reading your book to be entertained. So all of that exposition is just getting in the way of entertaining the reader.

Gone Girl is as close to a literary styled novel I have read (to completion) in almost a decade. I used to read persevere with them all the time, now I have learnt my lesson. What makes Gillian’s book different is that she hasn’t forgone the plot, nor drawn out the story. So fans of crime novels will be captivated and literary fans might admit they need to read more genre books.

I put this novel off for a long time, buying it because of all the rave reviews and awards, then hearing it was very literary and baulking. I can see why this novel has been the big thing of 2012, it deserves the praise.

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Book Review: Ice Force by Matt Lynn

Ice Force (Death Force, #4)Ice Force by Matt Lynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Don’t you hate it when you can’t look past a minor flaw? It’s like Tom Cruise with Scientology, Jim Carey dating Jenny McCarthy, Liam Neeson appearing in that woeful Star Wars film and babies with their lack of personal hygiene. If it wasn’t for these minor flaws you could really enjoy what is before you, especially if you didn’t get sick of Jim Carey years ago.

There is a lot to like about Matt Lynn’s Ice Force, especially if you like the “real operation” styled thrillers that Chris Ryan and Andy McNab write. Matt differs from the others in this style with his humorous banter between the characters, something I really like to see in novels, something I am trying to do with my own writing. So what is it that I’m hung up on? The misogyny.

Now, I’m not saying that this book and the writer are misogynistic, rather I’m saying that there is a tone stated by some of the characters that women aren’t good at soldiering, that they distract men from the soldiering and that they are generally just eye candy. This is typical bloke-y fare that you get with the military and men talking at the pub who hate to admit that they are not in charge in their relationship. It may be “real” but I really don’t like reading it.

It reminds me of a cartoon:
how_it_works

So, this was a great thriller, but points off for marginalising women.

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Book Review: First Drop by Zoe Sharp

First Drop (Charlie Fox Thriller, #4)First Drop by Zoë Sharp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a new dad, there are a few sentiments expressed by Charlie Fox – the hero – about kids that feel spot on. There is nothing more annoying than a baby interrupting you reading a good book, especially during the final 50 pages! The annoying kid Charlie was protecting rang a little too true for me.

Zoe has certainly got all the right thriller ingredients. But she has also managed to mix them together into a great blend that is interesting and exciting. From go to arrhythmia, there is no let up, with Charlie trying to stay alive and figure out who isn’t trying to kill her. If I had one quibble, it was with a chance encounter that was rather important to the plot, I would have preferred it to be done a little different. But then again, I forgive this in Lee Child, Zoe is no less a writer, so it is an easily overlooked point.

If you haven’t read any of the Charlie Fox thrillers, do so soon.

NB: This review was written whilst trying to calm a baby who hadn’t slept all day and was having the grumps.

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Book review: Assassin by Tara Moss

Assassin (Makedde Vanderwall, #6)Assassin by Tara Moss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Trying to read with a newborn in your arms is tricky. You try to get them to sleep and then realise you haven’t been reading all of that time. You try to feed them and realise that Zaphoid was right, a third arm does come in handy. This all adds up to making it hard to enjoy a good book.

The fact that I did enjoy this book shows just how good it was, because my reading has been very interrupted. Mak is back in what appears to be the finale in the Vanderwall series. Since the last book, Mak has been hiding out in Spain, but it isn’t long before assassins get wind of her location and she is headed back to Australia.

If this is the end of the series (I’m going by the novel, I haven’t heard Tara mention anything on this) then I think it ended appropriately. Some authors, TV shows and musicians drag out a series for too long. Tara has avoided that nicely. Now the only question is, will she continue in the crime genre, or will her paranormal novels be the focus now?

NB: This was a signed copy. Book fans may appreciate that detail.

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